Poem of the Week | June 24, 2008

This week’s poem is “After Losses” by Stephen Dunn, which originally appeared in TMR 2:2&2.3 (1979), a special double issue that featured young poets.  Stephen Dunn was born in 1939, and has published fourteen books of poetry, includingDifferent Hours, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and most recently, Everything Else in the World(2008).

After Losses

      For J.P.

Around the time the living room
became unbearable to look at
I took in two cats, a gray and a gray.
It was after the dog died and
the house was getting smaller.
It was after I rowed the small boat
into the seascape on the wall;
after I invented the small boat.
The cats ended all of that, for a while.
I was happy to watch them,
their speed and lassitude,
how when they were asleep
I could touch them awake.

But I began to hear the ho-hum
in each purr.  I was witness
to the energy that misplaces itself
until it’s gone.  Mine, not theirs.
My dream: lying back
with a superficial would, every hour
a nurse’s breast glancing my arm.
Such nice passivity that finally isn’t
a life.  Circles everywhere
looked like zeroes to me.

I write this for you
who is surrounded by it now, the stasis
that won’t end, these afternoons when
there’s nothing to say
and you say it
in order to survive.
I want to tell you its ends,
it just goes away.
I remember a twitch in a vein-
as if something lost were tapping on a wall-
no, it wasn’t that mystical.
I remember something like joy
coming with a fat pillow of its own…
no; it ends, it just goes away.